Before the COVID-19 crisis hit our world, I knew what it meant to have people who show up for you. But when my new normal became confined to my 900-square-foot apartment, what it meant to “show up” for people drastically changed. I understood the need to be safe and to keep others safe, but I was honestly unsure of how I’d make it through a physical-distancing lifestyle as a single, extroverted adult—especially with my birthday coming up! But even though adjusting to social distancing wasn’t easy, it showed me the important things in life.
As someone who values quality time above almost everything else, I felt discouraged and let down after a few days of “physical distancing”—sitting in my living room by myself. I felt purposeless without the ability to show up for my people. I was no longer able to invest in my friendships the way I had planned. There were no more Saturday brunch conversations, afternoon walks around the park with their kids in tow, or babysitting so that friends could have a date night. How would I celebrate upcoming birthdays and anniversaries during a stay-at-home order? Was there a way to show up for my people without actually being able to show up at all?
I knew I couldn’t let this question leave me crippled by discouragement or loneliness. I couldn’t let the challenge of having to stay home become a roadblock that kept me from being there for the people around me. When a crisis hits, the important things in life quickly identify themselves, and for me, the most important thing wasn’t physical proximity —it was social intimacy.
So I dug in. I dug into the extra time that I had and embraced it, striving to make this new normal a better normal. I wanted to learn things and develop habits that would nudge me and my friendships forward long after this special season has come and gone. I couldn’t look at anything I was facing as temporary. I had to treat this situation as if things would never change because I knew the moment I saw things as temporary, I would detach myself from all of it. Instead of being intentional, I would isolate. Digging in meant having enthusiasm for these uncharted waters. It meant embracing the awkward, putting my plans aside, and being creative as I figured out how to show up for my people in a new way.
Here’s what I found out:
1. I’m connecting deeply. Before this season, when I had a bad day or was struggling with anxiety or some kind of stress, I’d rarely call a friend to talk about it in real-time. I’d rather skip the risk of crying in front of her and keep my pride intact as I figured out the situation on my own. But I’ve learned that exchanging tears and encouraging words are the best medicine for sharing hard things we’re walking through. A simple text message or phone call can help make those first steps to connect deeply with the people we trust.
2. I’m encouraging creatively. I’ve always been a sucker for a handwritten note or a surprise gift to say “I’m thinking of you.” But in the hustle and bustle of daily life, I don’t serve the people I love and care about as much as I want to. As I’ve been forced to slow down and get out of the routines I’ve built for myself over the years, I’ve had to start new routines. I didn’t have small group time or Saturday brunch built into my week anymore. I had to get creative if I wanted to keep encouraging my people, so I made doorstep surprises, handwritten mail, and midday Facetime calls a part of my new routine.
3. I’m blessed abundantly. Remember how I mentioned that I was celebrating a birthday during all of this? Well, I can honestly say that my quarantine birthday will absolutely be one to remember! This year I was flooded with birthday wishes, notes and gifts on my doorstep, and even an edible arrangement (I’ve always wanted one of those)! This idea of “showing up” was redefined for me as so many people that I wouldn’t have expected to be a part of my birthday found a way to bless my soul.
It’s tempting to compare our lives—especially our relationships—to the people we follow on social media. As so many people share all sorts of adventures they’re having with their friends and families on their Instagram stories, it can be easy to get discouraged. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing with the people you love. It matters what you’re sharing with them—the exciting times, the hard days, the laughter, and the tears. The most memorable experiences are the ones that leave us feeling unconditionally loved and valued. I’ve learned that we don’t have to be physically next to someone to make memories like these. All we have to do is show up and dig in, connecting with people deeply, encouraging others creatively, and counting our abundant blessings.